Happy Endings?

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Paul Whybrow

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Jun 20, 2015
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Cornwall, UK
I've read several novels this year, which ended in a downbeat way: Gallows Pole, by Benjamin Myers, Preparation for the Next Life, by Atticus Lish and A Whole Life, by Robert Seethaller.

They'd all qualify as literature, rather than genre writing, and the overall atmosphere was gloomy, so it came as no surprise that the protagonists met their doom. Despite the rather dour atmosphere, I enjoyed reading them, though I certainly didn't come away with a great, big smile on my face.:oops:

It made me wonder if sad endings help the characters to stay in the reader's memory. Looking at my own novels, novellas and short stories, 12 conclude in an upbeat way, 7 have neutral endings and 9 are grim.

In writing my Cornish Detective series, it's crucial that there's a resolution to the crimes, otherwise, the reader will feel cheated, though most crime novels fade out with an air of relief tinged with regret and mine are no different.

Hard to imagine a romantic or erotic story ending with sad faces, though historical dramas and science-fiction are often infused with malice and threat.

How do you deal with endings?

Do you feel obliged to make them happy—in case the reader doesn't come back?

Or, do you pull the rug out from under the reader's feet, with an unexpected shock in the final pages?

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Mysteries require resolution - or at least solution. So far, mine have relatively happy endings, but not happily ever after. RE pulling the rug out from under the reader's feet. Anita Shreve does that big time in The Last TimeThey Met. I was furious, felt manipulated, and made a fool of myself sobbing on an airplane.
 
Mysteries require resolution - or at least solution. So far, mine have relatively happy endings, but not happily ever after. RE pulling the rug out from under the reader's feet. Anita Shreve does that big time in The Last TimeThey Met. I was furious, felt manipulated, and made a fool of myself sobbing on an airplane.

It certainly produced some wildly upset responses from readers on Goodreads!

The Last Time They Met
 
Yes and no. There can be the central plot which would be resolved, but there can also be an ongoing plot running through a series. E.g the Cornish detective was troubled by a cold case going back to the start of his career. In each book another piece of the cold case falls into place. However, I appreciate that was not the point that you were making @Paul Whybrow .
 
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